My first Reuben sandwich came from an airport deli. To be precise, I was at D/FW Regional Airport, Terminal 2E (American Airlines), on a sunny spring day, in 1977. I wasn’t traveling and I wasn’t meeting anyone. I was there just for fun.
When I was a 12 and 13 years old, I used to ride my bike to the airport just for fun. That’s the sort of thing I did while other kids were playing sports or hanging out at the mall. Yes, I was a little odd.
In some ways, going to the airport, by myself, made me feel connected with other people. It was an interesting way to observe people, without being obtrusive. I imagined stories about the people I saw and dreamed about the places that they would go to and places they had been. I was living life vicariously by watching others but it poured gasoline on the fire of my imagination.
I rarely had much money…usually nothing more than a dollar or two. But, on that day I had five dollars in my pocket. I gazed at the menu, reading the descriptions of the sandwiches that the deli had to offer. One sandwich in particular drew my attention. The Reuben. I had never had corned beef and sauerkraut was something I never imagined on a sandwich and rye bread was something I imagined only existed in New York. I had to have it.
I savored every bite of that Reuben sandwich and I still recall its warmth, aroma and the piles of sliced corned beef to this day. Every time I have a Reuben sandwich I recall the fun times I had during my trips to the airport, when I was globetrotting teenager, at least in my mind.
The Reuben that I am making today will have sour dough bread, instead of rye. Other than that, I have remained true to the classic sandwich recipe. I bought a beef roast that came with corned beef seasoning and followed the directions on the package. I boiled the roast for a few hours and then let it rest until cooled.
2 lbs prepared corned beef roast
16 oz Swiss cheese, sliced
1 ½ cups sauerkraut
1 ½ cups Russian dressing (ingredients and directions below)
Sour dough bread, sliced
1 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs butter
Slice the corned beef, ¼” slices or thinner if you can. Slice the Swiss cheese. Set these aside.
Preparing the Russian dressing:
2 Tbs onion, minced and pulverize with the broadside of a knife
1 cup mayonnaise
3 Tbs chili sauce (spicy ketchup)
2 Tbs horseradish, from a jar
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp paprika
Combine all and mix thoroughly. Set aside.
Assembling the sandwich:
Lay slices of bread on a clean work surface. Slather Russian dressing on both slices.
Lay slices of Swiss cheese on one of the slices.
Pile slices of corned beef on one top of the cheese.
Squeeze some sauerkraut in your hands to remove as much of the liquid as possible. Lay the sauerkraut on top of the corned beef.
Top the sandwich with the other slice of bread. Repeat the process to make a second sandwich.
Heat a skillet to medium/low heat. Add olive oil and butter.
When the butter melts, turn heat to low and carefully lay the sandwiches onto the skillet.
Brown both sides of the sandwiches, turning occasionally. Continue to turn until both sides have browned and the cheese has melted.
Remove the sandwiches and slice them in half.
Secure the sandwiches halves with toothpicks and dill pickle slices.